Book Review: Warfare on the Mediterranean in the Age of Sail: A History, 1571-1866

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by David S. T. Blackmore

Jefferson , N.C.: McFarland, 2011. Pp. xii, 391. Illus., maps, diagr., appends., notes., biblio., index. $45.00 paper. ISBN: 0786447990

Accounts of the Age of Fighting Sail tend to focus heavily on encounters between the Royal Navy and the French or the Spanish, and thus usually omit most events in one of the principal theatres of maritime warfare, the Mediterranean.  In this volume, maritime historian Blackmore (The Seafaring Dictionary: Terms, Idioms, and Legends of the Past and Present), seeks to review several centuries of often impressive naval operations in the Middle Sea.

Blackmore opens with a lengthy and very useful introduction that fills in a great deal of historical, technological, and geographical background.  He then gives us a chronological survey of naval operations in the Middle Sea and associated waters, from Lepanto (1571) through Lissa (1866), interleaved with short discussions on the evolution of technology and tactics, diplomatic, political, and strategic developments, and so forth.  The campaigns and actions range from small ship-to-ship duels right up to major battles and sieges.  Refreshingly, Blackmore really does look at all the participants in Mediterranean naval warfare, so we hear of operations by the Maltese, Neapolitans, Dutch, Venetians, Russians, Turks, and more, not just the English, French, and Spanish, and include the numerous European and American efforts to supress the Barbary Pirates.. 

Although some important operations are missing (e.g., the Spanish-Portuguese-Italian expedition to Algeria in 1783-1784 and the British one of 1824), this is a useful reference guide for students of naval warfare and the Mediterranean region.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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